Season openings don’t come much better than jockey Zac Purton’s three timer at Sha Tin yesterday including the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup on Supreme Win.
Last year’s championship runner-up to Douglas Whyte announced he was back and ready to find any chinks in the Durban Demon’s thick armour as he lifted Supreme Win over the line to narrowly take the feature, then added Costa Del Sol in the eighth and kept his unbeaten record on Scarlet Camellia in the ninth race.
“It has turned out a good day – I thought I had some decent rides but I wasn’t done any favours with some of the barrier draws,” Purton said. “Supreme Win had never gone that well first up before and he was always known as a second-up horse, but the off-season wasn’t that long this year so he hadn’t had a big break since he last ran and I think when the rain came before the cup race, that definitely helped him.”
Trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung also highlighted the short break for Supreme Win, who had run third over 1,600m just 55 days before yesterday’s win.
“He had some problems in the middle of last season and didn’t race for six months, then I brought him back late to run twice and so he had some fitness left after the short holiday but was also quite fresh,” he said.
“He has been able to keep his form through the summer and it probably wasn’t as strong as the field usually is for this race. Only seven horses helped him and so did the heavy rain just before the race – he got the right pace and Zac was able to give him a perfect run. The horse has had problems or he might have been a really top horse but that’s seven wins so he has been quite good for me anyway.”
The disappointment was favourite Arrived Ahead and jockey Douglas Whyte could offer no excuses: “I thought he was fit enough after his trial and I got a pretty soft lead and stacked them up. He gave me nothing. Cerise Cherry had a much harder run than me and he got beaten in a photo – mine was beaten pretty quickly.”
Purton is unbeaten on Scarlet Camellia from five times on his back and was worried about a wide gate over 1,400m, but the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained gelding was probably the blue sky story of the treble.
“Before the race I thought I would commit to getting further forward on Scarlet Camellia because of the gate but with the good pace, I was able to get in and sit back,” Purton said.
“That allowed him to breath and get his action right and finish off – he probably had enough last bit but did a good job. That will take him up close to a 100 rating but I don’t think it’s over. Even though he’s by Spartacus, he has staying pedigree on his dam’s side and he doesn’t look or feel like a sprinter so hopefully we’ll get a chance to step him up to something longer. If he can run a distance, then I think there are more points in him yet.”
The Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Costa Del Sol has been another of Purton’s regular mounts and was probably the winner that surprised him yesterday after a modest barrier trial but the jockey put it down to the season break.
“He was really at the end of it in his last few, and he was trained off with a fair bit of season still to go so Dennis didn’t have much option but to keep racing him,” Purton said. “I didn’t ask for much in the trial and he didn’t give me much and I couldn’t say I came here thinking he would win but it’s obvious that he has returned fresher.”